Dealing with Lust and Sexual Temptation

January 1, 2005

by Dr. Ronald A. Allchin, Sr.

No good pastor gets up in the morning, looks out the window, and says, "My what a lovely day! I think I'll go out and commit adultery today." Yet some do it anyway.

This familiar generic quote is altered and applied specifically to the Pastor in an area of certain urgency! In today's world one would have to be extremely isolated not to know the name of some pastor, or assistant, or missionary, or evangelist, or Christian school administrator or teacher who has fallen into some type of sexual sin.

As I reflect on eighteen years of biblical counseling, I have been involved in counseling at least one man in every category. Some were involved with other women, some with other men, others with teenagers and children, and some were locked into habits of masturbation, fantasies, and all types of pornography.

For those living a life of purity-Praise God for your faithfulness to the Lord, to your wife and family, and to your church family. Find encouragement and help to insure continued faithfulness as you read this article. Adultery can happen to the best of pastors. If King David, "a man after God's own heart," could become involved in an adulterous relationship, so could you, given the right circumstances! Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (I Cor. 10:12).

Some reading this article are already there-locked into an immoral relationship or consumed with impure thoughts stimulated by touch and pornographic magazines or videos. Some would cry for help but are afraid of exposure and harm to the ministry. Yet that ministry will eventually be destroyed if nothing is done to reverse the present direction. Cry out to God and read on. There is help!

You've heard it said that the best offense is a good defense. In dealing with lust and sexual temptation, the best defense is a good defense and offense. A biblical strategy is necessary for victory.

The roots to all sexual sin can be found in the heart of man. The problem with most men is that we forget the heart is "deceitful and desperately wicked," so much so that Jeremiah posed the question, "Who can know it?" The answer to the question is threefold.

It is obvious that God knows it-HE'S the one Who gave the warning.
Others can know it if they recognize what is happening. They can see the evidence as the idols in the heart exit the heart as evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications..." (Matt. 15:17-20).
The person himself can know it, but only if he regularly allows the light of the Word of God to expose the deceptiveness of his own heart. Some pastors use enormous energy to expose the sins of others but often fail to double that exposure and bring convicting light on personal idolatry where lustful desires rule.
A first strategy, then, for overcoming sexual temptation and lust is to open our hearts to the exposure of God's Word and to repent of any idol found there. We must turn from the idolatry of our hearts and ask God instead to control our hearts, communicating with Him daily and desiring what He wants more than anything or anyone else (Ezek. 14:1-6). A survey conducted by several professors of a well known evangelical seminary, interviewing more than 300 former graduates who had fallen into sexual sin, confirmed that the common denominator among all of these men was the absence of a regular PERSONAL time in the Word and in prayer. This must not be just an academic exercise, but must include a time of introspection and personal application of God's Word in honest communication with Him.

A second strategy must be to tackle the problems at the temptation level. It has been rightly said:

Sow a thought-Reap an action
Sow an action-Reap a habit
Sow a habit-Reap a lifestyle.
The Scripture presents overwhelming evidence that lusts and desires left unchecked lead to temptation. When one's thoughts are given free reign or even encouraged by pornographic pictures a person has been blind-sided and is in the process of a devastating defeat. As that uncontrolled temptation gives birth to sin, the final outcome is death (James 1:13-15), and this very often involves the death of relationships that are very difficult to resurrect.

It is clear by Christ 's own encouraging example in Matthew 4 that in intense temptation He defeated the opposition, the Devil, by His intimate involvement with and specific application of the Scripture. Paul also reminded the Corinthians that all thoughts and desires are to be regularly evaluated and allowed freedom in our minds only if they are obedient thoughts controlled by Christ. We are to "cast down" or demolish all disobedient thoughts and meditate only on thoughts that are obedient to Christ (II Cor. 10:5).

In Philippians 4:8 we have eight categories of thoughts approved by God that will get one started toward an obedient thought life. For the person in a contest with his thoughts, his game plan, listed on a 3X5 thought card, should be his constant companion. Take a card and divide each side into four squares. Place at the top of each square one of the eight categories of obedient thoughts. Then under each of those topics write five sub topics. The result is forty topics of obedient thoughts to meditate on when disobedient thoughts surface. We are not controlled by our minds-we can control our minds if we choose to do so. When temptations are defeated in our thought life they never progress to action, habit, or lifestyle.

A third strategy is to maintain a quality relationship with the assistant coach, each with our own wife. She must be Number 1, our priority human relationship, second only to our relationship with God. As men we must regularly measure the strength of marital unity with our life-long companion. How strong is our spiritual, physical, social, intellectual, and emotional unity? It was Amos who wrote the Lord's rhetorical question to Israel: "Can two walk together unless they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). A contributing factor to sexual temptation and moral failure is a breakdown of the unity in one or more of the spheres of the marriage relationship and replacing it with what is perceived as a "more fulfilling unity" with someone else. How easily we deceive ourselves into thinking the grass is really greener in the other field!

The final strategy is to recognize several other factors that assist us in attaining the victory God says we can have.

Since loneliness can pull us down in defeat, we must maintain quality relationships. (See the premier issue of Today's Christian Pastor for the article on loneliness in the ministry.)
Pride causes a self-centered, selfish, "serve me" attitude, and is often a root issue of sexual sins. It must be replaced with a repentant humility that shows in attitudes and actions of being God-centered, self-denying, and of having a "let me serve you" attitude.
Regular accountability with a trusted friend is essential, meeting regularly and asking specific questions to each other. One day God will ask the questions! (Romans 14:12).
Certain places and situations open opportunity to temptation. We must avoid these. Paul warns us not to make provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14).
Men are "falling" all around our nation in all denominations and in all too rapid succession. The Word of God has so much more to say on this issue, but words from Titus will aptly conclude.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world: LOOKING FOR THAT BLESSED HOPE, AND THE GLORIOUS APPEARING OF THE GREAT GOD AND OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST" (Titus 2:11-13).

Posted: January 1, 2005 11:17 AM
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